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Servant Leadership

by C.K. "Stan" Khury

In April of this year, I attended the 1997 CAS Leadership Meeting, a one-day conference. The agenda consisted of reviewing and discussing the CAS Strategic Plan, which was more than two years in the making. The format of the proceeding was particularly effective. After a brief plenary session, the gathering of approximately fifty persons was divided into three groups, each of which discussed an assigned aspect of the strategic plan. Afterwards, the entire gathering was reconvened to hear the conclusions of the various breakout groups. This process was repeated three times. At the end of the day, it was quite clear to all conferees that a very thorough and thoughtful review and confirmation of the CAS Strategic Plan had taken place.

Attendance at this meeting was determined mostly by formula: those who are currently holding positions of leadership in various CAS activities were invited. At the conclusion of the meeting, I began to wonder just how these people got to those positions wherein they were invited by "formula" to this gathering?

The answer was not long in coming - and it is best illustrated by a little story. In Herman Hesse's Journey to the East, a band of men embarked on a mythical journey. The needs of this band of men were attended to by a servant named Leo. Leo did all the menial chores and he also sustained the weary men with his spirit and song. He was a person of extraordinary presence. All went well until, one day, Leo mysteriously disappeared. Then the group fell into disarray and the journey was abandoned. The narrator of the story, who is one of the men on the journey, reports that years later Leo is found and is immediately inducted into the Order of the men who had sponsored the journey. Leo, who was first known as a servant, later became the titular head of the Order and its guiding spirit - a great and noble leader. Well-known, non-fictional examples of servant leaders include Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Theresa.

What then, is the formula for attending the Leadership Meeting? The invitees are those who serve the CAS. It is not a surprise. Nor is it surprising that the language used to recognize servants gives them titles of leadership: chairperson, task force leader, CAS representative, president, vice president, director, etc. These titles do an effective job of masking the true mission of these people: servants of their fellow members and the casualty actuarial profession at large.

One of the more interesting points in the CAS Strategic Plan is the identification of volunteerism as one of the keys to the vibrancy and success of the CAS. Once again, the term "volunteer" masks the true identity of a volunteer: that of servant. In fact, a quick review of the CAS Yearbook reveals that approximately 50 percent of the Fellows are involved in one or more activities of the CAS. This is nothing if not astonishing.

With participation in the affairs and the governance of the CAS at such exalted levels, it is difficult to imagine anything but a glorious future for the CAS as a prominent member of the worldwide community of actuarial societies.